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Air Asia skips Mumbai, Delhi still on radar

New Delhi,Soumonty Kanungo: Air Asia will not take off from Mumbai for now. The top management said the carrier is changing course for want of suitable slots. Even four months back, the low-cost carrier was bullish about its impending Mumbai operations.

The airline’s Mumbai plans became public last September. “We are coming,” group chief executive Tony Fernandes had tweeted with pomp. “In Incredible India….Bombay (Mumbai) is changing by the day ….AIRASIA India will be starting in this metro soon,” his tweet read.

Tuesday, however, was different. CEO Mittu Chandilya, while speaking on the sidelines of a seminar, said: “We did have plans to fly from the commercial capital of the country. But we did not get the required slots.”
But he did say Delhi was very much on the radar. Initially, the company had ruled out both Delhi and Mumbai, citing high airport costs.

Though Chandilya did give the reason for opting out of Mumbai, he didn’t cite any for the change in plan over Delhi.

“Mumbai airport is saturated, with most flights getting delayed during peak hours. By flying during congestion, we don’t want to bring down aircraft utilisation” he said.

In aviation parlance, aircraft utilisation means the number of hours an aircraft remains air-borne, indicating quick get-around timing. According to industry insiders, AirAsia has a good average aircraft utilisation of about 13-14 hours per day.

AirAsia India is a joint venture between AirAsia Bhd of Malaysia, which holds a 49% stake and Tata Sons with 30%. Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace holds the remaining stake.

AirAsia, which, at present, has three planes in India, plans to induct one more next month. The airline had earlier even talked about making a break-even by November last year, but is now talking May-June.

The airline plans to take about 10 more planes in the current year. It needs a capitalisation of $30 million by 2016, airline insiders said.

“Though Mumbai is no more on our radar at the moment, we are very keen on Delhi,” Chandilya added.

Air India seeks infra status
National carrier Air India wants the central government to give aviation sector infrastructure industry status as it will help the airline to raise capital easily. S Venkat, director (finance) and board member, said: “Investment in aircraft is as costly as a power plant. There are also other expenditure. If aviation is given infrastructure status, it will become easier to raise funds,”

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